Photo by Frank Lopez W Furniture, which boasts the area’s largest selection of patio furniture, recently hosted a new store grand opening.
Written by Frank Lopez
When Michael Flannagan heard about an article on industries that would disappear in a 100 years, the automobile industry was included. The gears started turning in his head. He felt it was a push to get out of auto sales.
Though Flannagan loved selling cars, he wanted more independence as a sales person.
Flannagan began to consider what other career paths he could take and asked what is something that people will always need.
His answer: furniture.
He and two other friends in sales got together and decided to open up a furniture store.
In 2016, Flannagan opened Wholesale Furniture Club in the Market Place Shopping Center in Clovis on Shaw Avenue.
“The reason why I got into furniture — long term safety,” Flannagan said. “There are 20,000 houses being built out here in the next 10 years. I’m not going anywhere.”
The premise for the store, Flannagan said, was to give customers the best prices, like buying wholesale, but because of the word “club,” people assumed one needed a membership to shop there, so the name was shortened to W Furniture.
Because of the limited space of the first store, with 2000 square feet — 1200 of them for the showroom — he said people were passing the store by.
In February, W Furniture moved a few doors down to their current location, right beside the former Toys ‘R’ Us building, which covers 8,000 square feet and 7,000 square feet dedicated to the showroom.
There is some indoor furniture in the show room, but most of the show room is used for outside patio furniture.
“We were wanting to sell things that you can’t find every day,” said General Manager Katrina Schuber. “We sold patio furniture all year long. When it was rainy and cold in January, people were coming in for patio furniture. If you go into places that have it here, it’s seasonal, and always pre-season. They’ll have it when you’re not really thinking about it, and when you are thinking about it, it’s gone.”
Flannagan said that he is always online, checking the prices of furniture sold in the store, and wanted to bring the online shopping experience into the store by showing customers a catalogue, or sending them a link to browse furniture. However, he takes the worry out of it by having products delivered to the store where he can assemble them himself.
W Furniture stocks its store with products from Furniture from America, the second largest furniture supplier, according to Flannagan, with Ashley Furniture Industries being the largest.
Flannagan said that all furniture stores buy from the same suppliers, and if a customer wants a certain product that isn’t in the store, he could order it. There is also an effort to sell furniture at a lower price, saying he could order someone a $10,000 couch, but he would rather sell a $1,000 couch to a customer every few years.
Schuber and Flannagan joked that Fresno is three years behind when it comes to trends, but that they have seen more sales for fire pits or fire pit tables, but that in general, more people are investing in patio furniture.
“The biggest increase in the furniture industry over the last five years has been outdoor furniture,” said Flannagan. “It’s got the fastest growth. People are realizing they don’t want to spend $10,000 dollars for a weeklong vacation when they could do their whole backyard and have a ‘staycation’ forever.”
The trend hasn’t been missed by big box store retailers such as Lowe’s and Home Depot, which have began to display their patio furniture earlier in the year, and leaving it out longer, but they carry less selection and less quality products, he said.
With more than 4,000 square feet of patio furniture, Flannagan says that W. Furniture is the largest patio furniture store in the Central Valley.
The store had its grand opening and ribbon cutting last Wednesday, and there are plans for monthly paint nights and to use the space for corn hole league tournaments.
“We plan to grow and do what it takes to keep the store busy,” Schuber said.